Observations on the Day After

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A few thoughts on what happens after last night.

1. At the very beginning of the Trump campaign, in its first months, its premise, against all those in both parties who said he couldn’t win was that he would redraw the electoral map with white working class voters. That flouted all conventional wisdom. I didn’t believe it. And yet that was pretty close to just what happened. I think it’s important to say that we don’t know yet if that is precisely what happened. By that I mean we don’t know the precise demographic contours of Trump’s win, specifically how much class as opposed to race, age and regionalism played in his win. But the most salient fact I took from last night was that in various parts of the country Trump took areas where Romney had won and substantially outperformed those margins. The parts of the country where that was most possible were in the Industrial Midwest.

2. I’ve been reading various reader emails this morning. Thank you for all of them. Through almost 16 years of doing this, your emails have helped me think, see things I don’t see, learn. It’s been the center of my and then our editorial process. Many of these emails simply express shock, others anger and fear, to Trump, to the universe, to me. There is a lot of fear. I know. I feel it. At such a moment I come back to a thought I’ve told family members at times of stress or grief. Optimism isn’t principally an analysis of present reality. It’s an ethic. It is not based on denial or rosy thinking. It is a moral posture toward the world we find ourselves in. If everything seems great, there’s no need for optimism. The river of good news just carries you along.

3. I have seen very little reckoning with what I believe will be the dramatic and highly disruptive effect of Trump’s win on the political coalitions that make up the both political parties. The most immediate effect will be within the Republican Party, if only because the GOP is in power and will be faced with immediate choices. I don’t believe the current Republican Party will fall in line behind the protectionist agenda Trump ran on. There are other parts of Trump’s agenda which might be unfriendly to GOP pro-business policies. But those have never seemed deep-seated to me. I think he abandons those pretty quickly. (After all, he’s against Wall Street but he wants to repeal Dodds-Frank. So that’s a joke.) Something has to give there. Maybe the GOP and its allied interest groups fall in line – hard to see this. Or Trump settles for window dressing on trade and basically doesn’t go to war with his party on that issue. Or he tries to build a coalition of protectionist Republicans and Democrats to push through new policies. I have no idea which one of those happens. But each of those developments are big disruptive events which I believe can whipsaw the bases of the two parties.

4. The first signs from Trump are that his cabinet will include his most Trumpian supporters, the least disciplined, angriest, most unruly. Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, the Milwaukee County sheriff, the guy who a few weeks ago was saying it was “pitch-fork” time. He’s apparently in the running for DHS. Not good. Obviously Trump is not going to be putting Democrats in his cabinet. But the country has a great need for him to pick some Republicans who at least have some deep knowledge of what they’re doing – whether that’s foreign affairs, national security, macro-economics or whatever else – and frankly just emotional stability. There’s no doubt those would be people who support policies I’d hate, especially because of the increasingly hard-right tilt of the GOP of which Trump is in many ways the culmination. But the alternative might be worse. In a ‘let it burn’ mood it might be fun to imagine Trump filling out a government with the people who ran his campaign and just totally going off the rails. But don’t underestimate the scale of damage that can happen along the way. The country seriously needs some Republican policy hands to keep him somewhat on the rails. No, I know they’ll try to push through all sorts of awful stuff. But it’s always important to remember: there are no absolute limits to awful. Things can always be worse.

5. I find it very hard to get past the apparent fact that a major part of this campaign was driven by a subversion and disruption campaign by a foreign hostile power. That is a completely shocking fact. That’s shocking to me as a Democrat but far more as an American. That doesn’t end with this one campaign.

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